CH 3.5 AIRPORT LIMO (JIRO)
Jiro had known the details of their travel would overwhelm Hanako, so he had said only, “You’ll just have to trust me, okay?”
“But what do you mean, I have to trust you? Is it going to be hard?” He heard the slight tone of worry in her voice. She had been packing and unpacking their belongings all day, making him lift the luggage onto their bathroom scale to ensure they weren’t going over on the airline weight restrictions. He felt bad that she kept having to say goodbye to more things. A favorite picture frame, a coat she didn’t wear often enough to lug a day into the future.
“It’ll be fine. Matsuki told me what to do.”
“Okay,” she said meekly. “I trust you.”
Matsuki was already a friend, and the only contact Jiro had with him so far had been over text message and video chat.
Matsuki was a friend, of a good friend in LA. The same LA friend who had helped he and Hanako feel at home when they’d first driven into the land of eternal sunshine more than five years before.
Jiro marveled over this fact for a moment. His first LA friend had introduced him to his first Tokyo one.
Hanako had been the one to organize all the packing and the closing-up of accounts and making final arrangements for things on the US end of things. She was the boss when it came to organizing their lives. It was an unspoken arrangement. She planned, he executed. She told him they needed to ship things at the post office, he got the boxes they needed, he made the shipping arrangements. He was a man of action and it pleased him to be on the Japan side of the planning.
On the Airport Limo, he sees the way Hanako stares at their airline carry-on bags. They sit undisturbed on the seats across the aisle from them. They had been in the country for less than two hours and she was already hyper aware of following the rules, doing nothing to offend, doing everything she could to make sure they didn’t stand-out.
Do you see who you’re with? He wants to remind her. There is nothing you’ll be able to do that’ll allow you to blend-in, darlin. “I’ll move them if someone needs the seat,” he says. Which of course, isn't enough for her.
“But why not put them up where they belong, in the first place?”
“They won’t fit above the seats. They’re too big.”
Hanako looks under the seats in front of them. “They’ll fit here.” Not so subtle code for, “Move them there…now.”
“It’ll be okay.”
Which infuriates her, but she says nothing.
When a woman jumps onto their bus at the final airport terminal to make an announcement in rapid Japanese, he knows instinctively what she’s saying. An automated English translation quickly follows, confirming it. He refrains from rolling his eyes at a slightly gloating Hanako and lifts the leather bags, jamming them beneath their two seats. It’s then that the last batch of passengers boards the bus, take the seats their bags had vacated.
It wasn’t that Jiro thought himself above the rules. He was sure it might appear that way to outsiders, who only saw his good looks and his confidence as an indication of arrogance. The truth was, he didn’t see the sense in some of the things the world asked him to do. He rarely disregarded a personal ask from someone, but if a sign stated a rule that was of an inconvenience to him, he ignored it. He respected people, he didn’t respect petty rules and guidelines that neither helped nor harmed himself or others.
He squeezes Hanako’s leg as she continues to stare out the window. She is taking it all in as she often does, lost inside her own thoughts, undoubtedly crafting the observations she would make to him later.
As observant as she was, she had as usual, missed the stares they’d received, walking around the airport. He was no stranger to the spotlight, but Hanako willfully shirked it. If someone looked at her, she automatically thought they were critiquing her clothes or her behavior in their heads. He, on the other hand, would take the opportunity to try and connect with people, to give a nod of greeting, to smile at their kids. “Didn’t you notice everyone’s heads turn to follow us as we walked from the currency exchange to the bus counter? I think their heads turned literally at the same time.”
Hanako had shaken hers. “I didn’t notice that.”
Jiro was made to stand-out, to shine, to draw people to him. He knew that about himself; had known it since he was young. The idea of living in a country where most of the population was one race…where he would stick out like white chalk on black pavement…he wasn't afraid of it.
“You won’t have a single, bad day in Tokyo,” Matsuki had told him. “Everyone is so nice here, and there is so much to see and do…every day will be an adventure man. Every day.”
Jiro wedges his shoulders into the back of the seat, dons his shades, and closes his eyes. They had a forty-five minute bus ride from the airport to Tokyo city center. The adventure could continue when he awoke.